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Scared Of Technology? You’re Old!

Apparently, growing up digital doesn’t just mean being used to technology – it means not being scared of it when things go wrong, either.

Do crashing computers and busted Blackberries completely freak you out? Does a cryptic error message on your screen leave you feeling defeated or discouraged? According to a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, your age might have something to do with your attitudes and emotions surrounding technology.

The study, based on a survey of over 2000 U.S. adults, took an in-depth look at how people felt and reacted to problems with technology whether that meant a down internet connection or a broken gadget.

Researcher John B. Horrigan points out: electricity was once new too. But now we flip on light switches without a second thought. And when the telephone was taking off in the early 1900’s, people were given specific instructions on how to make a phone call – something we now do every day. Over the passage of time, each new generation of users becomes more savvy and more adept at using the new technology until it no longer exists as some odd new-fangled invention, but simply part of the world as we know it.

The same holds true for our computers, our internet connections, our gadgets and our cell phones. When these things fail, it’s the younger users that are generally much more optimistic about the situation. Although young adults age 18-29 years old are no more likely to be able fix devices on their own, they were significantly more likely to be confident that they were on the right path to fixing it, and they were significantly less likely than older adults to feel discouraged or confused about fixing devices, says the study.

In fact, 85% of 18-29 year olds reported being confident about solving their device problem, while only about a third of them said they were discouraged or confused. Meanwhile, over half (52%) of adults age 30 and older reported being discouraged, 44% said they were confused, and about two out of three (67%) said they were confident. Adults age 30-49 were somewhat less likely than older adults to be confused, as just 39% said they were.

There was some variation among gender lines, too, with men being more likely than women to be confident about problem solving (76% vs. 68%), but they were just as confused, discouraged or impatient during the course of trying to solve the problem.

What this means is that, given time, our idea of a “mainstream user” will have to change. No longer will they be the slightly fearful, easily frustrated, computer novices. Instead, they will be much more at ease with technology. They may never be as tech-obsessed as we are, but they will have no problem adopting a new technology if it delivers value.

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